I’m a child of parents who subscribed to the belief that “children should be seen but not heard, and speak when they are spoken to” whenever company came calling.
My siblings and I knew this rule didn’t diminish us in any way. It was about HO‘OHANOHANO, our demeanor within dignity, and it upheld the importance of our respect and unconditional regard for whoever had come to visit the family. Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i (visiting time) was for our guests, and we weren’t their entertainment. We were Mea Ho‘okipa, their hosts, just as much as our parents were.
Lucky for us, this “seen but not heard” expectation dissipated once our company had left; it was belief no more. Quite the opposite in fact. Ours was a household where everyone in the ‘Ohana was expected to speak up whenever we had something to say. We were taught to do so.
As my parents would remind us, in those times they could read our transparent faces, “Speak up, I’m listening. Mind reading is something we just can’t do for each other now, can we.” Even with company, “and speak when they are spoken to” meant exactly that: Speak up, speak well, for we have taught you to express yourself. You are able to do so: Be heard.
Speak up, I’m listening.
Those may be the most powerful words a manager can say. “Speak up, I’m listening.”
Those words frame an invitation, and they make a promise. To tell someone “I’m listening” is to tell them “I want to know what you’re thinking, and hear what you have to say.”
We certainly knew that was what my parents meant. We held no doubt, we felt no fear.
Receptive ears create eager voices.
We learned another thing from my folks. My mom was especially fond of telling us kids, “Don’t let your voice fall on deaf ears.” She was talking about our demeanor again, and reminding us to behave well, and behave admirably, so that people would want to listen to us speak when we were invited to do so. Misbehave, be any less than you could be, and the invitation to be heard may never come.
Her advice isn’t old school; it’s still good advice.
Role expectation can shift in the workplace though: When people hire in, they’ve come from different families with different values, and their managers are the ones who’ll be thought of as their hosts.
Workplace culture can be a formidable deterrent to speaking up: Beyond being welcomed (and that might be in question for a while to a new hire) is it safe to speak up?
No problem. Not if you understand that managers create culture, and you decide to BE one of those great managers.
Great managers know that CULTURE is simply a group of people who share common values, and operate within those values.
The great manager, and the great PERSON, manages their own behavior by tapping into their values as their source of human energy. It’s the way they “lead by example” conducting themselves with ALOHA distinction.
You can speak up, and I will listen.
Speaking up IS a skill, and I believe it can be taught to adults in a respectful way (my parents were rather blunt with us). Speaking up can be demonstrated, so it can be emulated by others wanting to improve their own skill mastery.
There is another consideration though, one which is usually of much greater need.
What managers must do, is become good receivers. They must make their “I’m listening” statement come true as one of genuine intention. Then, they must deal with whatever has been shared with them. “Hmmm…” doesn’t cut it.
That’s pretty much what “management is a situational art” is all about.
When someone speaks up it’s a gift: No more mind reading. No more guessing.
When you listen well, it’s another gift: You give back the gift of their being heard.
When you handle it — whatever ‘it’ may be that needs attention — it’s yet another gift, one of follow-up in acknowledgement of whatever got shared with you.
The more this happens, the more gifts you get back: People speak up all the time. They trust you. They want your partnership.
Make room for the voices.
This good intention with receiving well, and responding in kind, is the Managing with Aloha expectation which is at the heart of the training I do for managers on The Daily Five Minutes. The D5M practice is a habit-builder in the “daily” part of it, for it grooms a conversational managerial style, and its frequency and five minute framing keeps it quite functional, but those particulars are like rounding the bases in a baseball game; you have to make it to first base first with your good intention about truly having a conversational culture — just as my parents made sure we had in our family. Good intention gives you a good hit. It’s the unstoppable line drive which gets you to first base.
Making room for the voices comes next: Once you have a workplace culture receptive to speaking up, people will need that air time. This is something that D5M recognizes as well — you may need more time initially, but once it’s cultural habit, it truly only takes 5 minutes on each of your work days.
This posting isn’t about pushing you into The Daily 5 Minutes practice though.
Practice getting on 1st base in every single conversation.
Here’s a slice of my coaching business reality: I know that starting D5M is easy in a relatively healthy culture where people already talk to each other quite a bit. It’s much, MUCH harder to get a conversational foothold in workplaces where silence rules the halls, meetings are lectures, and feedback only happens in anonymous suggestion boxes in the dead of night.
Practicing the Daily Five Minutes is more like rounding the bases and cruising into home plate with another RBI or two.
I’m writing this post, because before they begin their D5M practice, Alaka‘i Managers start working on every single conversation they have. They get real about their own good intentions — and they get more of those line drive conversations to happen.
Every conversation. Each and every one.
They will tell their people, “Speak up, I’m listening.” and they will mean it, with all the ALOHA intention they have.
Key 5. LANGUAGE OF INTENTION:
Language, vocabulary, and conversation combine as our primary tools in business communications, just as they do in our lives: What we speak is fifty times more important than what we read or write. The need for CLEAR, intentional, reliable and responsive communication is critical in thriving businesses — and in learning cultures, for we learn an extraordinary amount from other people. Drive communication of the right cultural messages, and you drive mission momentum and worthwhile energies. Communication will factor into every single value in some way as its primary enabler. The Managing with Aloha language of intention is inclusive, and is therefore defined as the “Language of We” with the value of KĀKOU as guiding light.
Read more: The 9 Key Concepts of Managing with Aloha
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